Vander Graaff: Rethink all-inclusive resorts this spring break

Abby Vander

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Colorado State University’s spring break is coming, and for many of us it will provide a much-needed reprieve from the anxieties of academic responsibilities. But, even in our travels, we must remember that our actions have a great impact on those around us.

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It’s time to rethink your all-inclusive resort vacation.

The travel agency Travel Matters, partner of the charity Tourism Concern, describes ethical tourism as a practice that promotes economic prosperity, social equality and environmental/cultural protection. All-inclusive resorts fail to uphold these standards.

Instead of collaborating with local populations, foreign companies use their power to exploit citizens and resources for their own benefit. Beyond their properties, large resort corporations place little importance on the places they are based.

New York University states that 21 percent of families have visited an all-inclusive resort. In 2018, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and four other Caribbean islands were the most visited spring break destinations. It is in these tourism-reliant countries where all-inclusive resorts are the most popular and detrimental.

The primary attraction of all-inclusive resorts is their convenience — before leaving home, customers pay one fee covering the majority of expenses for their entire trip. In locations where safety or language barriers may be a concern, these resorts ensure reliable housing, meals and activities so travelers don’t have to plan everything on their own.

“Instead of working to collaborate with local populations, foreign companies use their power to exploit the area’s population and resources for their own benefit.”

But in providing an easy, stress-free experience to tourists, all-inclusive resorts take business away from locals. All-inclusive guests will not likely spend their money at local restaurants or tourist attractions, instead opting for the commercialized meals and excursions that they have already paid for.

If a local on the Caribbean island of Antigua wanted to start their own business in the hospitality industry, they would not be able to compete with the convenience and financial dominance of these large resorts.

According to the New York Times, in 2016 Antigua expected Chinese and American investors to put millions of dollars into resorts, adding 3,000 hotel rooms to the 100 square mile island in the following six years.

While this type of growth provides locals with many entry-level jobs in the hospitality industry, because the resorts are primarily owned by international companies, locals never see the large profits they yield.

Antigua and other Caribbean nations involved in tourism are caught in a stagnant financial loop: they need resort corporations for daily incomes, but cannot further their financial prosperity because of the competition these businesses create.

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Many of these countries have a history of colonialism, and in this way the all-inclusivity is simply a modern continuation of the practice.

In her book “A Small Place“, Antigua-native Jamaica Kincaid said “In Antigua, people cannot see a relationship between their obsession with slavery, and emancipation and their celebration of the Hotel Training School.”

Because of the long established presence of all-inclusive resorts, local economies would fail without them. But tourism should be a mutually beneficial opportunity for locals, not international businessmen, to gain financial stability, and for tourists to appreciate the culture of their destination.

International travel provides an opportunity to try new foods, learn languages, and gain a fresh perspective on the world. Attending an all inclusive resort reduces this enriching experience to that of a sun-burnt long weekend on the beach in Florida.

If you do go all-inclusive this spring break, give back to the community by choosing to occasionally eat, buy and adventure outside of the resort. And in the future, consider your impact. Take a trip that is not only ethical but beneficial to those providing you with services along the way.

Abby Vander Graaff can be reached at letters@collegain.com or Twitter at @abbym_vg